Pine Tree School Board President Charley Peck gazed through the glass of the press box at Pirate Stadium on Friday, surveying the newly-laid turf as crews power-washed a section of season ticket holder seats.
“You can drive pretty close to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in the west or south to Houston and you won’t find a nicer facility,” Peck said. “Prove me wrong.”
Peck was among about 100 people invited to get a first look at the district’s much awaited state-of-the-art stadium Friday morning.
The $16 million dollar athletic complex was completed on time and, Superintendent T.J. Farler said, $1 million under its approved budget.
The stadium headlined a $29.9 million bond project approved by district taxpayers in 2011. The facility will host a variety of events, including football games, track meets and even marching band contests.
“This community has always shown great support for the schools,” Farler said. “During the design phase, there were multiple opportunities for input from the community. They pressed us and had a great vision. I think it’s more than we expected.”
Longview Regional Medical Center sponsored the stadium’s video board scoreboard that is about 16 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
When the Pine Tree Pirates take the field next Friday against Van, Peck said the varsity football team will compete under 100 foot-candles of light, which is considerably brighter than the 80 foot-candles needed for a game to be broadcast on television.
Peck said the school studied the architecture of other stadiums in Texas before designing the plans for Pirate Stadium, which can be expanded to seat 7,500 people from its current capacity of 6,500.
The stadium has a 6,250 square-foot field house and a specialized area for discus, shot put, long jump and triple jump.
Two concession stands inside the home side of the stadium’s concourse level have flat-screen televisions to allow fans to watch the game while waiting in line buy snacks.
Coaches, staff, and members of the media will have access to a state-of-the art press box on the third level. The press box includes home and visitor coach booths, a scoreboard and announcer booth and the “Pirate Den”, a community room which seats 25.
“We made trips all over this part of Texas,” he said. “We went over to the Carthage stadium and gleaned some ideas from it. We went over to Dallas and looked at five or six stadiums. What we tried to do was get a concept in our mind that was the best of all of them. We think we really did that.”
Even though the bond issue was approved by district taxpayers in 2011, construction of the stadium did not begin until last October. Initial bids came in $2 million over budget. A $19 million stadium plan was rejected by district voters in 2010.
Longview City Councilman Gary Smith said Pirate Stadium exceeded his expectations.
“I came out here for the initial ground-breaking,” he said, admiring the facility. “To see where it is now after a year later, I’m just so excited. I don’t know what to say.”
Peck said delays in process gave school officials a chance to build something special.
“We were pretty methodical in our approach,” Peck said. “The first bond election failed and we came back a year later and initiated the second one. The community was very responsive to it and this is their handy work.”
Pirate Booster Club held a meet the Pirates pep rally Friday night so fans could meet team members and get a first free glimpse of the new home of the Pirates.
The school district will hold a tour of the facility for the general public from 10 a.m to noon today.